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Web Server Log File Analysis with Analog

Learn about the visitors to your website by analyzing your log files. Understanding your present traffic will help you work towards the future.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer
Solving The Software Problem
mdcrawford@gmail.com

Copyright © 2004, 2012 Michael D. Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

Please Help! This is a rough draft of a new article for Dulcinea Technologies' Tips for Webmasters and Web Designers. I've only just begun writing it, but I've posted the draft publicly on my website so I can solicit your comments and criticism. With your help I can do a better job.

You can help by pointing out errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation as well as broken links or bad markup. Can you think of ways I can be more clear or concise? Can you suggest additional topics I should cover, or suggest other web pages I can link to?

Send your comments to mike@dulcineatech.com

Be sure to bookmark this page so you can check back for new drafts. Thank you for your help!
-- Mike

Introduction

You can learn more about the visitors to your web site by analyzing your web server log files. A better understanding of your site's present traffic will help you plan future work on your site, so that your efforts to increase traffic will be more effective.

Each time someone fetches one of your web pages over the Internet, the access is recorded in a log file, along with some information that is provided by the reader's web browser. You can find out how many times a page has been accessed just by counting the number of entries for it in the log. Also recorded is the date and time your page was accessed, the Internet address of the computer that fetched it, and the URL of the referring page, if any.

While you can certainly inspect a log file by hand by opening it in a text editor, there are likely to be too many entries to be able to make sense of it. The data is in a simple, raw tabular format that does not make patterns or trends readily apparent. What we need is a computer program that can digest the raw log file data and prepare comprehensible summary reports.

Such a program is known as a log file analyzer. There are several different analyzers available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. While some are proprietary commercial applications, others are available as free software, for which the source code is available. I will discuss one such free analyzer here, the one I use for my own website: Analog: "The most popular logfile analyzer in the world".

My Intended Audience

I intend that this article should help anyone who has a website, and wants to better understand their site's traffic. Please do not be concerned if you are not technically minded, or have limited computer skills. This article should serve as a gentle introduction to a powerful program. It is not at all difficult to get Analog to perform its most common tasks for you.

Analog is cross-platform; that is, you should be able to use it no matter what kind of computer you have or what operating system you run on it. It definitely runs on the most common operating systems: Windows, Mac OS (both Classic and OS X), Unix and Linux.

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